Back in his prison cell, Gallimard speaks again to his audience. He has searched a long time for an alternate ending to his story, he says — one that will bring him back to Butterfly. Finally, he has realized that the way to reunite with her, and to prove the legitimacy of his love for her, is to immerse himself in the same fantasy world that gave birth to her. He picks up the kimono left behind by Song, and two dancers appear onstage. They help Gallimard apply makeup to his face while he continues his monologue.
Now that Gallimard has come to understand Butterfly as a product of his imagination — not tied to Song, or any other person — he has gained total independence from the rest of the world. Though he thought he needed to maintain his relationship with Song to keep the fantasy alive, he now sees that there is no need to relate to the real world at all in order to be with his ideal.
Gallimard tells the audience that he has committed his life to a vision of the Orient as a land full of beautiful women who are born and raised to be perfect companions to the men they love, who live and die for those men even if the men do not deserve their devotion. Gallimard says he has known the truth about Song for a long time, and that he must now make a sacrifice for his mistake: namely, the mistake of loving an unworthy man.
In Gallimard’s first meeting with Song, he marvels at the beauty of Madame Butterfly’s suicide, which he considers a “pure sacrifice.” Now, as he speaks about the “sacrifice” required to atone for his love of Song, Gallimard draws a connection between himself and Puccini’s heroine.
Gallimard says again that he loved Song — though he pretended this wasn’t the case —and that this love was the thing that eventually destroyed him. Too blinded by devotion to exercise good judgment, he became like a woman himself. As the dancers help him put on Butterfly’s wig and kimono, Gallimard speaks again about his “vision of the Orient.” In this place he imagines, Gallimard says, there are still women who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the men they love, even when those men return their devotion with worthless love. Though a “Butterfly” can endure the pain of a lover’s disloyalty, Gallimard says, it is not possible to live with the knowledge that the person she loved was just an ordinary man — nothing more or less.
Gallimard maintains a sexist and deeply misguided idea of what women are and how they behave. He considers himself to have become like a woman because the love of a man has erased his sense of self and made him both helpless and stupid. Although his change of costume — donning women’s clothing and makeup —seems to suggest he has developed a deeper understanding of and sympathy for women, his speech makes it clear that this transformation is just another manifestation of his misogyny.
Gallimard is now in full Butterfly costume, holding a hara-kiri knife like the one Song once used to perform the death scene from Puccini’s opera. He sits in the center of the stage. He tells the audience that he has found his perfect woman, there in his prison on the outskirts of Paris. He announces his name to the audience: “Rene Gallimard — also known as Madame Butterfly.” He plunges the hara-kiri knife into his body and collapses, dead, into the arms of the dancers who have dressed him. The dancers lay Gallimard’s body on the floor. A light focuses on Song, standing nearby in men’s clothing, smoking a cigarette and staring at Gallimard’s body. As he smokes, he says the words: “Butterfly? Butterfly?” The lights fade to black.
The play ends precisely as it began: with a man looking at his lover, repeating the name “Butterfly” twice and hearing no response. Gallimard and Song have switched positions; it is clear that, though he was happy to think of himself as Pinkerton — in control of the person he loved — Gallimard was actually Butterfly, the one being manipulated, the one overcome by a false ideal. But although those dynamics play themselves out elegantly in the drama Gallimard creates for himself, the text condemns the very existence of these tropes. The emptiness that answers Song when he speaks Butterfly’s name — like the emptiness Gallimard hears at the beginning of the play — is a symbol for the worthlessness of the sexist, Orientalist ideals that Puccini and so many others celebrate. Gallimard is destroyed by his misguided ideas, and Song is left bereft by them as well. Nobody — white or Asian, man or woman — can flourish amidst the power struggles and delusions these fantasies engender.